Liquid Dreams (1991)

LIQUID DREAMS (1991)
Article 2600 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2008
Posting Date: 9-25-2998
Directed by Mark S. Manos
Featuring Candice Daly, Richard Steinmetz, Juan Fernandez
Country: USA

In the future, a woman comes from Kansas to the big city to move in with her sister. She finds her sister dead, and learns that she was working for an organization that specializes in erotic dancing and videos. She hooks up with a cop and decides to work undercover, joining the organization as a dancer to get to the truth.

Here we are taking another anomalous leap into the nineties with what the video box describes as a “futuristic erotic thriller”. Well, it seems to be futuristic enough. As for erotic, I’ve always believed that one man’s erotic fantasy is another man’s consummate silliness, and if you find MTV-style editing, garish nightclub milieus, bizarre costumes, throbbing robotic techno beats, and “sex is power” messages to be your cup of tea, this might be the movie for you. As for the thriller part, I can only say that the more things change, the more they remain the same; despite all the modern trappings, what we have here is just an old-fashioned mad scientist story. It holds the interest well enough in some respects what with the curiosity value of finding out what’s going on and the presence of such performers as Paul Bartel (who has a great cameo) and John Waters veteran Mink Stole. But for its premise, I found it pretty tame, it has some singularly bad cussing and questionable performances, and the “let’s kill everyone off because it’s the end of the movie” ending makes it hard to take seriously.

 

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Lost Island of Kioga (1966)

LOST ISLAND OF KIOGA (1966)
TV-Movie version of serial HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (1938)
Article 2596 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-14-2008
Posting Date: 9-21-208
Directed by John English and William Witney
Featuring Bruce Bennett, Mala, Monte Blue
Country: USA

A boy whose parents died in a shipwreck grows up on an island in the arctic regions that is kept unseasonably warm by an active volcano. Years later, friends of his parents show up along with a set of modern-day pirates after a treasure. He also has to contend with a hostile band of Indians.

Here’s more serial-converted-into-feature action for you. It’s better edited than is usual for this sort of thing, and it helps that the serial itself didn’t really follow the standard-issue serial plot. It’s still pretty episodic, and Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones is far from my favorite comic relief actor, but it is nice to see Noble Johnson in a much larger role than usual for him as Kioga’s Indian friend. The island itself and a haunted cave provide the fantastic content. And, since it’s now been quite a while since I’ve done one of these serials-into-features, I’m not in the mood to be my usual cranky self about them; in fact, I rather enjoyed this one.

 

Let’s Kill Uncle (1966)

LET’S KILL UNCLE (1966)
Article 2594 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-12-2008
Posting Date: 9-19-2008
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Nigel Green, Mary Badham, Pat Cardi
Country: UK/USA

A young boy loses his parents and inherits their fortune. He goes to live with an uncle on an island. However, the uncle has designs on the boy’s money, and plots to do away with him while making it look like an accident. The boy discovers the plot, and decides that the best way to save his own life is to kill his uncle first.

The acting is uneven and the pace isn’t always the best, but when William Castle is on his game, the fun factor is undeniable. Well, in this offbeat and somewhat lighthearted variation of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, he’s on his game, and it’s great fun watching the boy match wits with his uncle, whose seemingly friendly manner is offset by the fact that he’s a veteran who wrote a book called “Killing the Enemy”. The movie also features sharks, tarantulas, and a crippled man on a cart. It’s Castle’s light touch with this one that really makes it work.

 

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)

A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN (1971)
aka Schizoid, Una Lucertola con la pelle di donna
Article 2592 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2008
Posting Date: 9-17-2008
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Featuring Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel
Country: Spain/Italy/France

A woman reports a dream to her therapist about having murdered a neighbor woman. When the neighbor woman turns up dead a few days later, the evidence points to the woman who had the dream. Is she guilty? Or is she being framed? If so, then who…and how?

I wasn’t particularly impressed with Fulci’s NEW YORK RIPPER a few days ago, and commented that I didn’t think it had a particular sense of style. Not so with this one; this one is very strong on that level, and also manages to make the style enhance and complement the very interesting story itself. This is easily the most impressive Fulci movie I’ve seen yet, as well as being one of the most entertaining giallos I’ve seen as well. It has some fine dream sequences, an excellent Ennio Morricone score, a clever mystery element with a strong ending, a strong sense of suspense, an odd assortment of characters, and it even manages to throw in some Hitchcock references without letting them take over the movie. If IMDB’s ratings can be taken into account, this is one of Fulci’s best movies, and I’m inclined to agree at this point.

 

The Love War (1970)

THE LOVE WAR (1970)
TV-Movie
Article 2586 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-4-2008
Posting Date: 9-11-2008
Directed by George McCowan
Featuring Lloyd Bridges, Angie Dickinson, Harry Basch
Country: USA

Two alien races vie for possession of the Earth by sending down three agents each to play a deadly cat-and-mouse game to destroy each other; the winning team’s race gets possession of the Earth. One of the aliens on Earth meets and falls in love with an Earth woman.

Based on its 7.2 rating on IMDB, it’s obvious that that this TV-Movie had a great impact on a number of people in its time; most of the user comments are from people who remember it from many years ago but haven’t seen it since. Perhaps I might have felt that way seeing it back then. Watching it now, though, I mostly feel it’s a good premise poorly handled; the script is overly talky and never makes the premise convincing, the direction is uninspired, dreary and lacking in suspense and, though the fate of the Earth is at stake, I never really get the sense that what is happening is all that important. It does have a good twist in the last twenty minutes, but it leads to a downer ending that just makes it all seem drearier. What I found the least convincing is that the humans in the movie don’t seem to notice that we have people running around with loudly beeping trackers and zapping each other with loud ray guns; you’d think this sort of thing would catch someone’s attention. And one clever idea (that the aliens can spot each other by wearing special glasses to see their real selves) starts out well, but eventually becomes tiresome as we, the viewers, aren’t allowed to see through them until the very end of the movie, and the revelation at that point is thoroughly disappointing. This might work better for someone who has a strong affection for TV-Movies in general, but I’m not one of them.

 

Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976)

LOOK WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY’S BABY (1976)
TV-Movie
Article 2585 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-3-2008
Posting Date: 9-10-2008
Directed by Sam O’Steen
Featuring Stephen McHattie, Patty Duke, Broderick Crawford
Country: USA

Rosemary’s Baby (Andrew/Adrian) has a split personality. The devil worshipers dispose of Rosemary and attempt to make the child live up to their expectations. Complications arise.

Just knowing that this sequel to the classic horror movie was a TV-Movie was enough to really put me on my guard. To its credit, it doesn’t go in the direction I thought it would; given the popularity of THE OMEN earlier in the year, I thought it would merely be a TV-Movie rip-off of that one masquerading as a sequel to the Polanski film (though, truth be told, I suspect that it was the popularity of THE OMEN that drove this one being made at all). Having now seen it, I find myself almost wishing it WOULD have gone that way; instead, it takes us on a confusing, frustrating, and thoroughly unsatisfying ride. The subtlety and focus of the original movie is gone; instead, we have obvious scares combined with muddled plotting. There are moments here where the touches are simply laughable; in particular, the birthday cake with the candles shaped in the form of a pentagram struck me as utterly ludicrous. Of the original cast, only Ruth Gordon returns in her role of Minnie Castavet, but the character that worked so wonderfully in the original is painfully out of place in this mess; it’s no wonder she’s given very little to do. The biggest problem in the movie is the character of Adrian/Andrew; for a character with a dual personality, it’s a shame you don’t get even one well-developed character at all. On a side note, this is the second movie in a row in a which a character is named Peter in clear reference to the apostle of the same name (in this movie, he’s called Peter Simon, which is just that much more blatant). In the final analysis, the movie goes nowhere; it ends where it begins, and the only thing it does is dispose of a couple of characters from the original movie. Also, third-billed Broderick Crawford has about a minute of screen time. The cast also includes Tina Louise, Donna Mills, and in the Sidney Blackmer role, Ray Milland.

 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1979)

THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (1979)
Article 2584 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-2-2008
Posting Date: 9-9-2008
Directed by Bill Melendez
Featuring the voices of Simon Adams, Don Parker, Beth Porter
Country:UK/USA

Four children find that the wardrobe in a spare room is a gate to the world of Narnia. There they help the lion Aslan do battle with the evil white witch.

Given the speculations on the Book or Revelation in yesterday’s THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH and the religious allegory of this movie, it looks like I’m on a bit of Christian kick here. Personally, I prefer my religion this way, as an allegorical fantasy that works quite well whether or not you want to work out the symbolism (though, if you do, it does add another level to the enjoyment of the story). The books that make up C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” are recognized fantasy classics, but, alas, outside of having had this book read to me in grade school, I must admit that I haven’t read the series (though a recent purchase of the series should amend that with time). Still, from all reports, this is faithful adaptation of the first novel, and it seems quite respectful; I’m really glad the film-makers resisted the impulse to add cute, treacly songs to the mix. The animation isn’t flashy, but it does manage effective stylistic touches on occasion. The voice acting is uneven (and it appears that different voices were used for the UK release of the movie), but my only real complaint is that the witch does way too much yelling. Still, it’s the story here that matters, and the story is quite enjoyable. The movie is particularly effective in the scenes where the faun makes his attempt to turn the young girl he has found over to the witch, and the scenes that serve as the allegorical equivalent of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ; you’ll know when you reach these scenes.